Lying in a hospital bed for 5 days straight barely having the strength to get myself sitting up only to expunge the only nutrients left in my body was humbling to say the least. I was literally lying on my potential death bed. Sounds so dramatic, like I’m grasping for sympathy. Maybe unconsciously I am but honestly I never thought I’d feel so helpless. I never thought I’d need help to simply sit up.
Here goes nothing… I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis on July 24th, 2015 after spending a week in the PCU at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. After experiencing 7 months of progressively worsening bloody stools, abdominal pain, anemia and deterioration I remember just looking at my mom and bursting into tears. I had lost roughly 30 pounds in a month and could barely roll myself over in bed and walk to the bathroom without withering in pain and exhaustion. After giving me an iron infusion that seemed to catapult me downward rather than help, my gastroenterologist was at a loss. The last thing he had told me was if I continued to get worse I should seek out the gastroenterology department at Cedars Sinai – he couldn’t figure out why I was deteriorating so quickly. My holistic nutritionist was doing everything she could to keep me afloat but my body was at its wits end. I had been forced to quit my bartending job, move out of my Huntington Beach apartment and back in with my parents and unable to begin my newly accepted job at an Environmental Consulting Firm.
Mom and dad drove me to the emergency room at Cedars and after hooking me up to the EKG and seeing my condition they threw a bed in the hall and started IV fluids and steroids almost immediately. Many CAT scans, IV’s and X-rays later they determined before they could address my GI issues (at this point my last colonoscopy had shown brief inflammation with the diagnosis of Proctitis) they had to figure out why my chest/neck cavity was filling up with air. I was informed if it didn’t dissipate back into my body through the night I would have to go into thoracic surgery to drain the air.
I remember feeling safe at the hospital. I felt like at least I wont bleed out and starve – they could feed me through a tube, right? The irony was for the first four days I wasn’t allowed to eat anything because of the air in my chest cavity and subsequent pressure on my chest and throat. An IV of saline solution and occasional ice chunks were it. To the surgeon’s surprise the pressure began decreasing and the air began to be reabsorbed back into my body. All I know is the pressure around my throat and chest started lessoning after about 24 hours and the thoracic surgeon stopped coming in to check on me after a couple days. To much of my relief no needle would need to be punctured into my throat. They shifted gears to address my GI issues.
My colonoscopy in the hospital revealed extreme inflammation throughout my entire large intestine – leaving me with a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis. The doctor insisted without steroids, immunosuppressants and/or biologics I would have to have my colon removed and an ileostomy bag. I asked him about healing myself holistically and he pretty much laughed it off. I remember thinking, “…so how much is Humira paying you?” What made me so frustrated was that this was the youngest of my GI doctors. He should be the one fighting to cure these diseases through food and lifestyle rather than pharmaceuticals and drugs…
So with most of my coworkers at BJ’s thinking I had fallen off the face of the earth for unknown reasons and my [almost] new coworkers probably thinking I was an unreliable, sick new hire my confidence took a bit of a hit. It all seemed so complicated and overwhelming to explain and I felt like no one would really understand how bad my health had become. I feel like I can handle a lot without complaining and feeling sorry for myself but for the first time in my adult life I really needed help to function. That was really hard for me to relay to people. I wanted them to realize I wasn’t okay. That’s something I’m definitely learning through this process – it is okay to not always be okay. Embrace the good days along with the shitty days – pun intended. Then dig deep and make your bad day better.
I hope this is a good start…